Hey Everyone, as promised here is the next chapter in The Rise of Uzumaki Naruto! Sorry it's up a day late than I planned but a trip to the hospital got in my way. Turns out I fractured my foot playing basketball with my cousins. I should have known better, honestly I've always sucked at Basketball. Also, "Aww Yeah! Hit 1000 Favs!" Sorry I needed to get that out of my system, I'm excited, next goal is to his 1000 Reviews, but I'll need you guys help for that.

Anyways though, I wanted to thank all of you for your reviews on the last chapter, it's always great to hear what you have to say about my writing and I appreciate you letting me know what you thought. To everyone who enjoyed it I'm glad and for those of you who had issues with parts I'm sorry it wasn't exactly what you wanted, but I hope you enjoy what's coming.

The next chapter should be out in two weeks, I'm still dealing with a lot of issues in my personal life so I can't dedicate as much time to writing as I'd like, but I'll get it up as soon as I can. As always please leave me a review and let me know what you think at the end of the chapter.

I should also mention that I still own nothing.

So now without any further ado, I present to you Chapter 21.

"Naruto" - Person/Summon Speaking

"Naruto"- Person Thinking

"Naruto" - Jutsu

"Naruto" - Boss Summon/Demon Speaking

"Naruto"- Boss Summon/Demon Thinking/Inner Sakura

Chapter 21 – The Forest of Death

Naruto was attempting to catch his breath as he shot through the mangled trees of Training Ground 44. He still couldn't believe how quickly everything had gone insane. Looking back a couple hours everything had seemed so simple. Sasuke, Sakura and himself had been debating the best way to go about acquiring the scroll that they needed, as well as what teams they should target or avoid.

They hadn't had much time to strategize before they were jumped by a group of Ame-nin. Of course things hadn't gone well for the Ame-nin. They had sent one to try and fool Sasuke and Sakura while he was taking a leak and the other two thought they could get the jump on him. Needless to say those two hadn't expected the clones he had in the area to beat their asses down before they could even get their kunai out.

Naruto smirked briefly remembering the smug look on Sasuke's face staring down at the Ame-nin who had tried to fool them. Apparently the guy couldn't even pull off a decent Henge and Sasuke and Sakura noticed it right away. He'd taken the guy out before he even tried to talk. It had been really amusing to see Sasuke's smug smirk turn to shock as he stepped into the clearing with the Ame-nin's teammates over his shoulders.

Sadly they hadn't found the scroll they needed on the Ame-nin, but they had a second Heaven scroll if they wanted to try trading with another group. As well as ensuring that there would be less competition in the end.

It was almost immediately after that when things had gone to hell. Team 7 had once again been racing through the treetops with Naruto a bit ahead of the others when he was hit by an overpowered fūton jutsu that flung him what seemed like halfway across the forest. If that hadn't been bad enough when he finally righted himself and managed to land safely he found himself face to face with a massive snake.

He had tried to circumvent the large reptile, but sadly the thing kept following him so in the end he took the creature down with a combination of the Kage Shuriken no Jutsu and wind manipulation increasing the power and penetration of the blades. The Snake had been riddled with holes before it disappeared in a cloud of smoke. That was why Naruto was running at full speed. He only knew of one person who could summon snakes, and if his suspicions were right his team was in serious trouble.

-With Sasuke and Sakura-

Sasuke grit his teeth as he and Sakura hid in the branches, things had been going pretty well for their team up till now. They'd already taken down an opposing team, sure they hadn't gotten the scroll they needed but it never hurt to thin out their competition. Then Naruto had been flung off by some powerful jutsu and the woman standing before them had tried to fool them by using the Henge to make themselves look like Naruto. Unlike the last person who tried it the Kusa-nin's Henge was perfect. Her acting gave her away though.

Once he'd revealed this by flinging a kunai at her she dropped the Henge and revealed herself to be a shinobi of Kusagakure. Things had taken a notable turn for the worse from there. The Kusa-nin revealed that she had the Earth Scroll that they needed and proceeded to swallow it saying they'd have a fight to the death over them. Then they had locked eyes. Sasuke had felt killing intent before but this was unbelievable. Just looking into the other shinobi's eyes he saw his own death, and a brief glance at Sakura revealed that she wasn't doing any better. Thankfully he was able bite down on his lip, puncturing it with his canine's and focus on the pain enough to knock himself and Sakura out of the way of the kunai thrown at them.

"S-Sasuke-", Sasuke covered his teammates mouth quickly with his hand hoping that whoever the Kusa-nin was hadn't heard her.

As Sasuke was running through possible scenarios in his head Sakura saw noticed a rather large snake making its way towards them, not bothering to waste time trying to warn her distracted teammate she smacked his arm away from her face before tackling him out onto another branch just evading the snake. This apparently finally got her teammates attention as he saw the snake now chasing them. As Sakura flung half a dozen kunai at the snake Sasuke flew through hand-signs. "Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu!"

Sasuke and Sakura watched as the snake which had by now been riddled with kunai and shuriken thanks to Sakura was light up like a bonfire. The two took a minute to catch their breath until they heard a chilling laugh. "Kukukukuku, how shameful… to think you believed you had beaten me." Sasuke and Sakura stared rather worriedly at the charred and cracked snake that burst apart to reveal the Kusa-nin once again. "Now why don't you be good little prey and make this chase more interesting."

Gritting his teeth in frustration Sasuke once again flew through hand-signs, "Katon: Karyū Endan!" The Kusa-nin was actually caught off guard by the powerful Katon Jutsu, and was even more surprised when she heard another voice.

"Futon: Daitoppa!" The powerful blast of wind collided with the fire dragon causing the heat coming of it to intensify as the fire jutsu doubled in size before crashing into the Kusa-nin. Sasuke and Sakura had looked up at the sound of their teammate's voice only to see him barrelling towards them. "We gotta go, if this guy is who I think we don't stand a chance."

Once upon a time Sasuke hearing this from Naruto would have caused him to challenge his teammate for suggesting something was outside his skill range. Thankfully though they were beyond that and Sasuke and Sakura nodded jumping off along with their teammate. The three didn't stay long enough to see the melted face on the Kusa-nin as she chuckled in a notably more masculine voice, muttering about how much more interesting things had become.

After running for several minutes Naruto came to a stop in the branches of another large tree. Gesturing for his team to stop he started taking in large amounts of air, "I hope to Kami I'm wrong, but I think that guy was Orochimaru." Hearing this Sasuke looked slightly confused whilst Sakura's eyes widened in horrified realization.

"Why would Orochimaru be in the exams?!" Sakura asked with hushed urgency.

"I have no freaking idea, but after I got blasted away from you two I ran into a giant snake, the thing seemed like it was trying to slow me down so I finally killed it, but it disappeared in a cloud of smoke…" Naruto took another breath as a look of realization crossed Sasuke's face.

"It was a summon?"

"Yeah, that's what I figure, and the only snake summoner I know about is Orochimaru, and he's a missing-nin…"

"Kukukuku, it's nice to know my old home still hasn't forgotten about me." The three genin of Team 7 jumped and turned at the voice, they hadn't even stopped moving for a minute yet and he'd already caught up with them. Looking at the one they identified as Orochimaru they could see that the missing-nin's appearance had changed. The most notable change being the once notably feminine face was now charred and melted. "Well now that you know who I am I suppose there is no purpose of this face anymore."

To the shock of Team 7 Orochimaru reached up to his face and pulled it off, revealing a pale white face with snakelike eyes. "I'm impressed that you managed to damage me thus far, you truly are his brother aren't you Sasuke." Hearing this Sasuke froze, Naruto however had no such inhibitions and ran through another set of hand-signs.

"Futon: Renkūdan!" Naruto shot of five of these air bullets at the Snake Summoner and watched in frustration as the man dodged them all.

"Well aren't you a little annoyance. I suppose I should deal with you so you don't interrupt again." Naruto watched as the man before him bit his finger and ran the blood along his wrist. From the place he was standing he could make out some sort of seal, only for another plume of smoke to appear, which when cleared revealed another monstrously large snake.

Sasuke seemed to have snapped out of his daze seeing the giant snake appear. "What do you want with us?"

Orochimaru smirked at the question "Oh what indeed Sasuke-kun" Staying silent he signalled his snake to strike only for it to jerk to a sudden stop. Looking down the snake's snout he saw the blonde and red haired brat had managed to stop his summon from smashing the branch.

A moment earlier Naruto felt rage swell up inside him the way the damn Snake summoner had laughed when asked why he came. Naruto could hear the cruelty in the man's voice and just like in Nami when he felt fear for his teammate's safety, that fear turned to rage. Rage directed at the man whom would harm his precious people, with a burst of chakra he moved.

"Sasuke, Sakura run, I'll hold him as long as I can but we don't have a chance against him!" Sasuke and Sakura stared in shock at their teammate. Of course they were used to him surprising them by now, but none of his past acts could have prepared them for the red slitted eyes that stared back at them.

Sasuke opened his mouth to argue but Naruto cut him off, "We don't have time to argue, go, I'll hold him off as best I can!" Sakura was about to argue when Sasuke cut her off by nodding and leaping away with her in tow. He was cursing himself; if he'd been stronger Naruto wouldn't have had to sacrifice himself for them. It was in that moment Sasuke began realized just how much he'd come to appreciate his more eccentric teammate.

He grit his teeth as he continued through the trees, Sakura shouting for him to slow down as he thought of the teammate they'd left behind. The one he'd come to see as his friend.

-With Naruto-

As soon as Sasuke and Sakura had taken off Naruto shoved off the branch as hard as he could, flinging the giant summon backwards and shocking Orochimaru. As the snake crashed into a tree and found itself dazed Naruto leapt onto another branch glaring down at Orochimaru.

Said missing-nin had recovered from the surprise over that had just occurred and was now glaring back at everyone's favourite hero. He was about to say something when he noticed a red aura begin to surround the boy. He only had a moment to notice the aura though because the next second he had to duck.

Naruto had felt the Kyūbi's chakra rushing through his system and he didn't try to stop it, at least not yet. He knew he had no hope against someone like Orochimaru, but maybe with the Kyūbi's chakra he could surprise the man. He was crouching on the branch one second and the next he was in the man's face swinging a clawed hand towards the man.

Orochimaru easily ducked under the right handed swing, but didn't notice the follow up kick that crashed into his shoulder. He had realized who the brat was the second he saw the red chakra, but it still didn't help him with the pain from the hit. The Kyūbi's chakra was powerful.

Naruto lunged after the man again trying to capitalize on his advantage only to find his next punch to be stopped when the man grabbed his wrist and held him in place, "Well, well, well… If it isn't the Kyūbi brat, you've annoyed me enough for one day; I think I know a good way to deal with you though." Naruto however wanted none of whatever Orochimaru was planning and decided one of the best ways to throw the man off was to deliver a chakra enhanced head-butt to the missing-nin's face.

There was a loud crack followed by a hiss pain as Orochimaru felt his nose break, distracted and irritated he flung Naruto away from him. Flipping over in the air Naruto landed on a tree and felt more of the Kyūbi's chakra flow through him. Orochimaru watched as the boy's appearance changed even more, now instead of the red aura surrounding him The chakra had also formed a single tail as well as what looked like a long pair of ears. He grimaced as he set his nose and got into a combat stance, perhaps he would hold back a little less… Yes he definitely wanted the brat to suffer.

-With Sasuke and Sakura A few Minutes Earlier-

Sasuke was still running with a grim look on his face, Sakura was still yelling something at him but he refused to listen. Sakura was currently furious, she'd been trying to get Sasuke to stop ever since Naruto had told them to run, but he wasn't listening. The pair landed on a notably large branch but this time Sakura wasn't going to allow Sasuke to keep leading them away. It was strange to think that a month or two ago she would have been ecstatic that Sasuke was holding her hand leading her away from a battle. She probably would have been starry eyed thinking about how heroic he was protecting her, but she was a different girl than she was, and by now she was pissed.

Channelling chakra to her feet Sakura stuck herself to the branch. Sasuke not being aware of this tried to leap again only to come to a dead stop as he felt like his arm was nearly ripped out of its socket. Sadly for him though his momentum didn't quite stop there as he felt a strong pull on his arm and felt Sakura's fist collide with his face. "Damn it Sasuke stop!"

Sasuke landed on his ass and was staring wide eyed at Sakura, "What the hell are you doing Sakura? Naruto told us to get the hell out of there."

"So we just leave him like that?! What does Kakashi always say? Those who abandon their comrades are worse than trash!" Sasuke looked up at Sasuke and had a hard time believing the look he saw in her eyes, she was angry yes, but it was the disappointment that shocked him.

Sasuke had been beating himself up inside ever since they'd left Naruto behind, but what could he do, it had basically been an order and he knew that Naruto had the best chance of buying them time. He was sick with himself, all his supposed pride as and Uchiha had gone out the window the minute he'd agreed and let Naruto protect him as he ran away. And now he saw Sakura looking down on him, throwing their sensei's words in his face. They were a team, but they were more than just that. They were a family, a dysfunctional one, but family none the less.

Sasuke couldn't hold eye contact with Sakura anymore and looked down. How long had he ignored this all? Sure at the beginning he had assumed Naruto would do nothing but hold him back, and he knew Sakura had been worthless as a kunoichi, but they'd all changed. Naruto more than anyone, sure he was still an idiot at times but only when he could get away with it. He was also strong now, Sasuke hadn't even realized how much he'd grown accustomed to his teammate he was a fixture in his life, someone whom he stood beside and trusted to watch his back. Naruto was like a brother to him and he'd ran off and left Naruto on his own to protect them. Sakura was right; right now he was worse than trash.

Sakura just stood staring down a Sasuke, she watched him slowly rise to his feet still refusing to meet her eyes. He took a step towards her and looked back the way they had come. Sasuke took a deep breath before he looked back at Sakura, "Thank you Sakura, you're right… I don't know what I was thinking listening to Naruto; we both know how much trouble he tends to get into by himself."

Hearing this Sakura smiled, she'd managed to get through to him. She was still scared with the idea of facing Orochimaru, in fact she was well aware she might die, but she felt a lot better being aware of that as opposed to the idea that they had abandoned their teammate and never looked back. So with a nod between the pair they were off.

-Back with Naruto and Orochimaru-

Naruto had had a lot of bad days in his life. As the village pariah it was to be expected. Sure he'd had some good days, but the sheer volume of bad days made it safe to say that this one was now officially ranking in his bottom 10. He shot off another set of Fūton: Renkūdan at the Snake Sannin and grit his teeth as they missed as well. He was growing tired though, and the Kyūbi's chakra was beginning to take its toll on his body. He leapt away from the man's disturbingly long tongue again and landed on the branch again. "What the hell do you want with us anyways?"

"Kukukuku, I want nothing with you boy, what I want is Sasuke-kun." Orochimaru laughed as he dodged another Suiton: Teppōdama. The jinchūriki was officially irritating him now though. Normally he would just kill anyone who annoyed him, but he knew that he needed to brat to survive for Sasuke to be able to participate in the final round of the exams.

"Well I won't let you get your hands on him you pedophile!"

Orochimaru stopped hearing this, "Why does everyone call me a pedophile?" He hadn't meant to say it out loud, but he was honestly curious. After all he'd never once been interested in copulation; it was a messy and altogether disturbing process to him. It was something animals did, so why oh why did people consider him a pedophile. His old teammate had even called him one on more than one occasion. So Orochimaru was rather surprised when he got an answer from a Bijū powered blonde.

"You're a creepy as hell man in the woods looking for a young boy, if that doesn't scream pedo I don't know what does!" Orochimaru frowned at this, in retrospect he could see how it could be interpreted that way, at least he hadn't been talking about just wanting the boy's body.

"You've annoyed me enough brat, I'm tired of playing with you." Before Naruto could react Orochimaru's tongue had lashed out again, far faster than earlier and ripped Naruto towards him, Naruto saw him going through handsigns, and instantly recognized what the man was about to do. Orochimaru was planning on planting a seal on him to block off his chakra and he had no immediate way to avoid.

Naruto began going through the handsigns for the Kawarimi hoping that he'd pull it off in time when he heard a familiar voice yell, "Katon: Hōsenka no Jutsu!" Orochimaru's momentary distraction was enough to give Naruto the time to pull of his own replacement technique and now Orochimaru was forced to jump away from the group of fireballs roaring towards him. It was a mixed blessing, on one hand he wouldn't have to go out of his way to search for Sasuke again, but on the other hand he hadn't managed to place the seal on the jinchūriki and keep him out of his way.

Naruto appeared in the forest near Sasuke and Sakura and shot them a grateful glance, "Thanks for coming back guys, if he landed that seal on me I would have been completely screwed." Sasuke smirked at this, feeling slightly better. He was thankful they had made it in time, he didn't want to think what could have happened if they'd arrived even a few seconds later. He made a note of the odd reddish chakra that had been covering Naruto but he realized that now wasn't the time to ask about it.

"Are you alright Naruto?" Naruto nodded briefly to Sakura as he shakily stood up again, the Kyūbi's chakra had left him when he'd used the Kawarimi no Jutsu and he was exhausted. Naruto nearly collapsed, but Sakura managed to catch him.

"Well how considerate of you Sasuke you came back to-" Orochimaru was cut off by Sasuke calling out another jutsu.

"Katon: Karyu Endan!" Orochimaru scowled as once again a fiery dragon flew towards him. This encounter had not gone as he'd planned. He had wanted it to be a brief meeting in which he would mark Sasuke with his Cursed Seal, but the Kyūbi brat had stalled him and he was getting tired of dealing with the children. He was pleased to see that the boy's Sharingan had developed two tomoe in each eye, but he needed to finish this up quickly.

Flipping through handsigns he created a wall of mud to block the inferno raging towards him before disappearing and reappearing behind Sasuke. The genin could hardly believe the speed the man was displaying, but they could only stare as he proceeded to bat Sasuke away from them. Orochimaru didn't want Naruto to interfere again.

Sasuke grunted as he got to his feet only for Orochimaru to appear once again behind him, even his Sharingan being able to track the man meant nothing if his body wasn't fast enough to react. "Now now Sasuke be a good boy, I just want to give you a gift after all." Sasuke felt a shiver run down his spine at the man's voice. He knew he couldn't move fast enough to get away, he could practically feel the man descending on his neck. Before the action was completed he met eyes with his teammate and shock appeared on his face.

Orochimaru was finally satisfied with the events of the day; finally he had accomplished his goal. If he'd seen the look on Sasuke's face as he descended on the boy's neck he probably would have just passed it off as panic about what he was doing, but that didn't matter now. Unfortunately though for Orochimaru it seemed as if Kami really wanted to screw with his plans, because the instant his teeth were about to sink into the boy's neck he disappeared and was replaced by none other than the brat who had been screwing with his plans all day.

Orochimaru could do nothing as his teeth sunk into the boy's neck and the seal took hold. From a short distance away a shocked Sasuke stood next to Sakura as he saw Naruto scream out in pain as he slumped to the ground from whatever Orochimaru had done. The instant before the snake summoner could complete whatever it was he'd been trying to do he had felt a pull at his core before he locked eyes with Naruto. He knew what was happening but couldn't stop it. Naruto had used the Kawarimi no Jutsu to switch their places and he'd taken the attack meant for him.

Sasuke's upset however was nothing compared to Orochimaru's. With a frustrated yell he batted the downed jinchūriki away from him before he locked eyes with Sasuke once again. If it didn't interfere with his future plans he would kill the Kyūbi host here and now, but he still needed the brat to be alive for his plans and he couldn't risk drawing any more attention from Akatsuki. Orochimaru ground his teeth and shot another furious glare at Sasuke. His goal was ruined; he could only perform the Cursed Seal once a day because it required half his chakra to use. Any less would give it a higher chance of killing the one who had marked and odds of survival were already 1 to 9. Sasuke was too important to his plans to risk trying to mark him now.

"You may have escaped me today Sasuke-kun, but I'll be back for you. You won't be able to elude me for long… Soon enough you will seek me out yourself."

Sakura watched as their village's most well known traitor turned to mud and disappeared. Sasuke however had his eyes locked on the fallen figure of Naruto. Leaping down to where Naruto had landed he bit back saying anything. Naruto had protected him again, and it looked as if Naruto was suffering from whatever Orochimaru had done.

Sasuke felt useless, he'd come back because he'd realized how much his team meant to him, hoping to help in the fight, and what had he really done? Nothing aside from distract Orochimaru for a few moments and get himself captured. Sasuke knelt down quickly and hoisted Naruto over his shoulder before muttering quietly, "I'm sorry I was too weak Naruto…"

Sakura was also currently upset with her performance, sure she'd helped a bit in the beginning of their conflict with the rouge sannin, but she'd been dragged away and by the time they got back there wasn't much she could do to help. For now though she pushed her doubts from her mind, right now her team was down one man, and she needed to be on her guard. Sakura leapt down to Sasuke, "We need a place to hold out for the night so we can try and figure out what that man did to Naruto."

Hearing Sakura speak snapped Sasuke out of his interior monologue, "I think I saw a hollowed out tree when we were coming back. That should be good for the night." Receiving a nod of approval from Sakura, he led the way.

After several more minutes of running the Sasuke and Sakura with Naruto in tow landed at the spot Sasuke had mentioned. "I think this'll do for at least the night."

Sakura looked around briefly before nodding, "Magen: Koken Arazu no Jutsu." Sasuke looked at Sakura in confusion before she explained. "Kakashi-sensei finally taught me some genjutsu, but I didn't have a chance to use any of them in the fight, besides they wouldn't have slowed Orochimaru down at all with the level they're at." Seeing Sakura looking depressed Sasuke sighed, it wouldn't do any good if both of them were feeling guilty over their fight.

"Either way, it'll keep us safe for now." Feeling slightly better at her teammate's words she nodded.

"Thanks Sasuke, could you go out and set some traps while I check on Naruto?" Sasuke nodded and made his way outside the range of her genjutsu. Thankfully with his Sharingan he'd be able to see through but it would be enough to cover them for the night. Turning away from the direction Sasuke had walked she looked back down at Naruto.

He looked so defenceless, he was shivering, and his clothes and mask were littered with tears some which seemed to have blood on them. If that wasn't bad enough there was also the bruising running up his arm from the hits he had taken. These things however were not what she was concerned about, she needed to see whatever it was that Orochimaru had done to his neck, so with only some hesitation due to embarrassment she removed Naruto's vest. Underneath the vest she saw that there were puncture marks through his mesh armour where Orochimaru had bitten him.

Sighing again, and sporting a slight blush she sat Naruto up and pulled off his mesh shirt. She however could only gasp at what she saw. Ignoring Naruto's relatively well defined torso she found herself staring at what she knew was a large and incredibly complicated seal on Naruto's stomach. Confused as she was by that she drew her eyes to Naruto's neck only to find what she assumed was another seal, only this one was an ugly pulsating red.

-Outside with Sasuke-

Sasuke was once again muttering to himself as he set up traps. Thankfully he had a good length of ninja-wire at his disposal and their camp ground of sorts was by now surrounded with traps. Activating his Sharingan though he spotted a team in the underbrush. It was twilight now and night was beginning to fall, but from the distance he could read their lips. Quickly making his way through the genjutsu and towards Sakura he spoke, "We're being watched by another team, they don't know exactly where we are thanks to your genjutsu, but they spotted me while I was setting up traps."

Sakura grew worried at this, "Then what are we going to do? Naruto's in no state to fight, I don't even know what's really wrong with him…"

"They're planning on waiting till morning to attack; I assume they don't want to deal with low visibility…" Sasuke trailed off as he moved to stand behind Sakura and his eyes fell on Naruto, or more accurately the large seal displayed on his stomach, "What is that?"

Sakura shrugged her shoulders, "I don't know I'm assuming it's a seal, but it looks really complicated."

"Is that what Orochimaru did to him?"

"I don't think so Sasuke… There's another seal on his neck where Orochimaru bit him." Sasuke looked where she pointed and saw the angry red mark. He shook his head again to push his current self-deprecation from his mind.

"If it wasn't done by Orochimaru then what's the other seal for?"

"I don't know Sasuke… but its Naruto, he'll be alright won't he Sasuke?" Seeing the worry etched on her face Sasuke nodded.

"Yeah, nothing ever seems to keep the dobe down for long. Get some sleep Sakura I'll wake you up in a couple hours and we can switch. Just make sure to wake me before dawn, I want to be ready for those guys out there."

-Naruto's Mindscape-

Naruto slowly became aware of his surroundings, he was clutching his neck at the painful sensation radiating outwards from it but he slowly rose to his knees. Looking before him he saw he was in shin deep water in what looked like a dark sewer. Naruto grit his teeth as he saw an unfortunately familiar set of bars before him.

"So you've finally stopped screaming have you?" Naruto glared as the face of the Kyūbi became visible to him. "Once again in your idiocy has put us at risk…"

Naruto looked away from the beast before him, as much pain as he was in he knew the Kyūbi wasn't the source. Naruto grit his teeth thinking back to his fight with Orochimaru, he knew he had been outmatched. He didn't realize how much the man had been toying with him until Sasuke had reappeared. Naruto hung his head in realization of just how much help he had needed to stand before the sannin even when he wasn't even being taken seriously.

As much as Naruto loather to admit it he owed the Kyūbi, without its chakra he would have been flattened in an instant. "Thank you for helping me…" Naruto's voice had been barely above a whisper but the Kyūbi heard it.

Hearing this Kyūbi growled, "If you're so thankful then stop getting us in messes that I have to save you from. You're weak, and I will not tolerate a weak host."

Naruto with his head still hung just muttered, "I know… but I'm getting stronger…" Naruto then raised his head and sent a grin at the monstrous fox, "But until I'm strong enough I guess I'll have to rely on your power for a boost now and then."

At this the fox scowled, "How dare you make assumptions of me fleshbag, come in here so I can rip you apart, you'll have no chakra from me ever again!" As the fox yelled at Naruto and its tails smashed against the bars before it Naruto continued to grin.

It was nice to know he could get on the ancient demon's nerves. Really he knew it was probably a foolish idea to torment the colossal chakra construct but wallowing in self-pity wasn't really his style. Naruto made his way to his feet, still clutching his shoulder when was caught off guard by a disturbing laugh.

"Kukukuku well isn't this interesting… Not what I planned but I'm sure I could shape you into a useful tool boy." Naruto spun at the voice, standing behind him was none other than Orochimaru. Naruto tripped over his own feet stepping backwards and landed in the water staring up at the man.

"What the hell, how did you get in here!?" Naruto was panicking, wracking his brain to figure out how the snake sannin had appeared in his mind. The pain in his shoulder quickly caused him to snap his head up in realization, "What the hell!? You sealed your chakra inside me!?" Naruto was slowly backing away from the sadistically smiling man.

Feeling his back hit something he looked behind him to see he had backed into one of the bars of the Kyūbi's cage. "Well yes, honestly it's rather simple really, with my consciousness in the mind of others it is so easy to bend them to my will, you truly did irritate me stopping me from placing my seal on Sasuke-kun, but I suppose being in your mind is a unique sort of prize in itself." Orochimaru's predatory smile quickly made its way to the top of Naruto's list of things that creeped him the hell out.

Orochimaru's speech however was interrupted by a much darker chuckling, "You think I'll just allow you to control my container do you snake?"

At this Orochimaru's head jerked upwards, finally seeming to take the demon into his consideration. Looking at the large fangs glaring down on him, he spoke, "If you try and stop me I'll kill the boy it is within my power."

This however got a reaction that surprised both Naruto and Orochimaru, "You can try snake, the boy may be weak, but make no mistake I am not, I will not be controlled my some snake-skinned hunk of flesh with dreams of immortality." Orochimaru seemed like he was about to retort when a tendril of the Kyūbi's chakra shot out of the cage and wrapped around his neck. The segment of Orochimaru struggled for a moment before gasping in pain as the flesh the chakra was touching began to corrode.

"The Chakra in your mark may be foul, but you were a fool to think it could stand before mine, you have annoyed me enough with your insolence mortal, I think I will rid myself of your presence. It is already crowded enough in this seal without your chakra trying to make room for itself." Naruto watched in shock as whatever the hell the Orochimaru thing in his mind was ignited before being drawn into the cage and disappeared after a rather sickening crunch.

"It's been a long while since I've had a snack."

Naruto stared up at the Kyūbi again. It took him a few minutes to come to terms with what he'd just seen. Finally standing he was still aware of the pain radiating from the mark on his neck, "Why is his seal still here if you destroyed him?" The Kyūbi stared down at him with its red eyes for a moment before responding.

"What I destroyed was the piece of his consciousness that he sealed in you, his chakra still remains."

Naruto stood still for a few moments before looking back up, "Can you get rid of it?"

The Kyūbi grinned back down at him, "Do not underestimate me mortal, it will immensely painful though."

Naruto steeled his resolve and looked back up at his tenant, "Do it."

Jutsu List:

Kage Bunshin no Jutsu - Shadow Clones Technique

Kage Shuriken no Jutsu - Shadow Shuriken Technique

Henge no Jutsu - Transformation Technique

Kawarimi no Jutsu - Substitution Technique

Katon: Gōkakyū no Jutsu - Fire Release: Great Fireball Technique

Katon: Karyū Endan - Fire Release: Flame Dragon Bullet

Fūton: Daitoppa - Wind Release: Great Breakthrough

Fūton: Renkūdan - Wind Release: Drilling Air Bullet

Katon: Hōsenka no Jutsu - Fire Release: Phoenix Sage Fire Technique

Suiton: Teppōdama - Water Release: Gunshot

Magen: Koken Arazu no Jutsu - Demonic Illusion: False Surroundings Technique

BAM, done chapter 21. So what did you all think of it? I think it was a decent length, and I felt like I accomplished a lot in it. I am also pleased to say that I've got the characters of team 7 to a point where I'm finally satisfied with their personalities. Don't worry if Sasuke seemed a bit depressed this chapter, he won't stay that way for long, but this chapter gave me great opportunities to show just how much team 7 has grown. I wanted to squeeze some of Naruto still confused over the Hinata incident in here, but sadly it just didn't fit in this chapter, but don't worry I'll get back to that in the next one.

Also remember in this variation Team 7 never lost a scroll and they even have an extra. If some people think it was a bit over the top how team 7 took down the Ame-nin let me know, but I feel with how much more improved they are as opposed to canon they shouldn't have had any trouble with them, especially seeing as they didn't have a chance to use their genjutsu on them. I also really want to know what you all thought of the fight with Orochimaru, I wanted to make it believable, after all even though Naruto has significantly improved Orochimaru is a S-ranked Nuke-nin, so even if he's drawing a bit on the Kyubi he never really stood a chance. I also would like to know what everyone thinks of my solution to the curse seal. The way I see it, its almost like Orochimaru creates a shadow clone and seals it inside a person, so when his personality comes waltzing into the seal the Kyubi didn't take to kindly to it.

Anyhow, as I mentioned I'll have the next chapter up in 2 weeks, so you have all that time to review. I hope you enjoyed it, so let me know what you think, remember the more reviews I get the more incentive I have to get the chapter up sooner.

Ja Ne